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Faculty approves new degrees, honors retirees

Two new graduate degrees--an SM in comparative media studies and a joint MEng in ocean engineering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI)--were approved by the faculty at its May 20 meeting.

The Master of Science in comparative media studies will focus on the impact of the media on other fields and offer professional training in combining expertise in computer hardware and software, economics, social science and humanities. Students with backgrounds in humanities, business, journalism and computer science are expected to apply for the two-year program.

J. Kim Vandiver, professor of ocean engineering and director of the Edgerton Center, proposed at the April faculty meeting that MIT formally establish a joint program in marine environmental systems with WHOI, leading to a Master of Engineering degree in ocean engineering. This program is not new, but the faculty meeting approval makes WHOI an equal partner in awarding the degree (up until now, the only degree awarded jointly by MIT and WHOI were Engineer, Master of Science and Doctor).

Faculty members also heard from Dean of Engineering Robert A. Brown about the newly created Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health (BEEH), which seeks to bring biology broadly into contact with engineering. The new division will consist of faculty from engineering, biology, and the physical, chemical and computational sciences, and will define new courses and curricula at this interface.

BEEH will educate engineers to apply analytical measurement and modeling techniques to biological systems; apply synthetic design perspectives to creating technologies in biology-based diagnostics, therapeutics and devices; and evaulate how living organisms are affected at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and systems levels by pathogens and toxins as well as therapeutics and devices.

The Division of Toxicology from the Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology will merge into BEEH. Initially, the division will have co-directors reflecting the merging of the bioengineering and toxicology faculties. BEEH will begin with 20 faculty members, and degree programs are planned at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


Eight professors who are retiring this year were cited for their contributions to the Institute, and those present at the faculty meeting were applauded by their colleagues. Lotte Bailyn noted that among the eight professors were eight MIT degrees and an average of more than 30 years of service.

Retiring this year are Professors Michael Athens of electrical engineering and computer science; Charles C. Counselman III of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; Lee Grodzins of physics; Samuel Jay Keyser of linguistics and philosophy; John E. Meyer of nuclear engineering; Walter E. Morrow of electrical engineering and computer science and director of Lincoln Lab; William T. Peake of electrical engineering and computer science; and William F. Pounds in the Sloan School of Management.


With the goal of promoting leadership training for all MIT students, the Institute and the Air Force have agreed to create a prototype federal program for leadership development that would be available to all MIT students.

"The ROTC program represents an opportunity to build leadership, which is an emerging priority in undergraduate education," said Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay. "MIT is committed to preparing students for national service and for effective leadership. The contributions ROTC makes to leadership development are impressive. This allows us to take advantage of the considerable contributions that the Air Force can make.

"We approached the Air Force with a set of proposals for incorporating elements of the Air Force ROTC program that would make it an attractive component of an overall MIT leadership program," he said.

Through the program, portions of the AFROTC Leadership Laboratory would be open to students who are not seeking an Air Force commission.

This proposed program, which got a go-ahead from the Air Force, would be open to all MIT students regardless of sexual orientation. However, by law, some students would be barred from practical military training, including summer training camp and drills.

"This initiative, along with other Institute efforts, will help address an important need on campus," Professor Clay said. The next step is to engage faculty, students and cadets in discussions of what the program would look like.

Professor Clay said he hopes the prototype will encourage the other armed services to step forward with similar initiatives and encourage other universities to consider incorporating such programs into their curricula.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 3, 1998.

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